In the first few verses of Psalm 139 we are given a glimpse into the depth of the knowledge that the Lord has of each one of us. It’s probably safe to say that most of the people in our life don’t really know us very well. There may be exceptions, like our parents, a sibling or close friend, or maybe a teacher. But even then we tend to not reveal our inner thoughts and struggles. We prefer to let others know only the good things about us, the successes and accomplishments; our “good side,” as it were. The rest we keep hidden, if we can.
This psalm begins with David acknowledging that “the Lord has searched him and known him.” Think about that. God, the Creator of the universe, has examined every aspect of your life. He knows you far more deeply than even you may think you know yourself. Interestingly, at the end of the psalm, David invited the Lord to continue searching his heart and his thoughts. He wanted to know if there was anything that might be displeasing to the Lord, so that he could walk more closely with Him.
In verse two the psalmist acknowledges that the Lord knows “when he sits down and when he rises up.” According to Dr. David Jeremiah, that phrase is used in Hebrew to describe all the routines of life. In other words, the Lord knows everything you do. Nothing escapes his notice.
Verse three goes on to say that the Lord searches the paths which you take in life, and even when you lie down and rest. He’s “acquainted with all of our ways.” Nothing catches him by surprise, nor can you hide anything from him. He knows the good that you do, the bad things you’ve done, and the ugly things which you don’t want anyone else to know about.
In verse four we see that his knowledge extends to the very words you speak, even before you’ve spoken them! David puts it this way, “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” In fact, he knows the thoughts, motives and intentions of your heart.
In verse five David says this: “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.” The “hemming us in” may sound a little intrusive and restrictive in your life, but you need to remember that the Lord is also protecting you, much like the Shepherd in Psalm 23, who leads and guides you, protecting you with his “rod and staff.” And it’s comforting to know that the phrase, “you lay your hand upon me,” also can mean “a gentle touch,” much like when a parent puts their hand on your shoulder to reassure you and encourage you.
The psalmist closes this first section of the psalm by saying that knowing all these things is “too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain to it.” God’s knowledge of us is so profound that we have trouble even fathoming it. Perhaps the most wonderful thing in all of this is that God, who knows everything about us, still loves us completely. “God demonstrated his love for us, in that, while we were sinners, Christ died for us,” (Romans 5:8). That’s also the Gospel! “For God so loved the world, that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16).
Jim Newman is pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Exeter. He may be reached by calling 559-592-2367 or by emailing [email protected]. Prays Together is a rotating faith-based commentary and advice column among the pastors, and guest laypeople, of area churches.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.